Our first stop on the Trans-Mongolia was Nizhny Novgorod. It was a six hour train ride from Moscow and one of the few Golden Ring cities accessible by the Trans-Mongolian.
Our hotel was right above a casino. We loved it. Not for the gambling, tho – it was the first real bed and private shower we’d had since arriving in Russia. We even got a free breakfast which was unexpected because this is a country where restaurants charge you for sugar packets.
The next morning was really foggy – we couldn’t see much outside the hotel – but we caught a minibus across the river to the kremlin and downtown. In Russia, most older towns have a “kremlin”, which is a walled compound built when the town started that usually housed the local government, wealthy citizens and churches, keeping them safe and protected. And not surprisingly, the poorer citizens lived outside the walls – unsafe and unprotected. Suckers!
The kremlin was up on a hill with a cool walkway around it, but not much to offer on the inside. After walking part way around the kremlin, we walked along the promenade downtown looking at the stores and various street vendors before eating lunch, which was followed by more walking then sitting in an internet cafe. The the fog cleared giving us some great views and we started our journey back to the hotel to get our bags.
This is when my least chivalrous moment happened. Let me first explain what a minibus is. Take a bus and cut it in half, then double the stink and let it age in your backyard for a good 30 years. Oh, and don’t clean it. Ever. That is a minibus.
So, when aforementioned minibus pulled up to our stop, it was already packed. Tina and I crammed our way in the door and just fit. Then these two older ladies got in behind us blocking the door from shutting. They started pushing us further into the bus and the people already in the bus started pushing us back. Tina began saying she couldn’t breath and was gasping. So I turned around and starting pushing on the old ladies behind us saying and motioning that Tina couldn’t breath. The lady closest to us just shrugged. Oh, it’s on grandma. It’s on. Then somehow the lady behind her fell out the bus. But I’m innocent on that one.
Maybe 20 minutes later it was our stop and the minibus was still packed. It stopped and started letting people out. And we motion that we are trying to get off but the old lady shrugged again and kept texting on her phone. So I started pushing her off the bus until she got the picture (I should mention here, too, that when a minibus stops you have about ten seconds to get off before it shuts the door and starts moving). She gets off and as I step off the minibus she had some words for me which I like to think was some form of apology.
I deserve it, right?